You’ve probably heard the term composting before, but what exactly is it? The truth is, around 50% of what Australians throw into the garbage on a daily basis can be used as compost. Compost itself is any form of decaying organic material. This can be used to further grow plants. It’s the ultimate form of recycling – using organics that are past their date to help grow more. Composting can come in many shapes and forms and is a huge part of improving agriculture. In today’s blog, our environmental consultants are going to look at some of the various benefits that come with composting.
The art of composting
Composting itself is using compost – this could be anything from cow manure to banana peels – to further grow existing plants. Organic materials will naturally decompose over time. With composting, the process is sped up and gives the materials ideal conditions to decompose in. This allows the decomposed materials to feed the soil below with rich nutrients.
Creating an ideal environment for microorganisms to thrive during the decomposition phase is essential to the composting process. It’s all about the microorganisms and small bugs that can find their way into compost piles and help the breakdown. The two types of microorganisms found in compost are aerobes and anaerobes.
The primary difference between the two is that aerobes need at least 5% of oxygen to survive and work to help the composting process whereas anaerobes do not need oxygen to survive and have the opposite effect – they will not help the composting process as effectively and will also produce toxic chemicals that are hazardous to the plants and soil. The hydrogen sulphide they release can also result in a bad smelling compost pile.
The primary benefits of composting
There are various amounts of benefits that come with composting according to our environmental consultants – both locally and globally. For starters, you’ll improve the quality of your soil greatly by composting. This can result in healthier plants in the future and if you’re growing food then much riper and better-quality food. It also decreases the amount you’ll send to the landfill as you’ll discover that a lot of what you’ve been throwing away can be used to compost instead.
If less compostable organics end up in the landfill, then that means there’s less methane gasses being released into the air. It’s been found that 3% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions are made up of compostable organics from the landfill. Because they don’t receive enough oxygen being buried other under trash, the anaerobe microorganisms decompose it in a way that ends up releasing methane gas. So, by not composting you’re essentially contributing towards global warming in a huge way that you probably didn’t even realise.
Some more benefits that come from composting include:
- The suppression of pests and plant diseases. By using natural compost instead of chemical fertilisers, you’re not only saving money but also taking the greener option as chemicals in fertilisers can be hazardous to the environment.
- Improving your soil’s moisture retention – which means you don’t have to water it as often.
- Less chance of runoff occurring which means less chance of groundwater streams being contaminated from pollution and erosion.
It’s also just a good practice to get into. It’s the same as recycling just on an organic level. It may also kindle a passion for gardening that you didn’t know existed.
What can and can’t be composted?
Anything that’s organic, essentially. Things such as:
- Tea bags
- Hay and straw
- Hair and fur
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds and filters
You should have a healthy mix of “greens” – such as vegetables and grass – and “browns” – such as dead leaves and twigs. This ensures you’re getting the most out of the composting process as the greens are nitrogen-rich and the browns are rich in carbon. Too much of either will create an imbalance.
An excess of carbon can result in a much slower decomposition rate, whereas too much nitrogen can lead to an increase in acidity in the pile – resulting in a toxic environment for certain species of microorganisms.
The following items are examples of what you shouldn’t compost:
- Fats, oils and dairy products
- Coal or coal ash
- Diseased or insect-infected plants
- Pet waste
- Chemically treated yard trimmings
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